The 29th Judicial District Court accused Republicans of creating “intentional and effective” partisan and political gerrymanders that violated the Kansas Constitution, The New York Times reported. The newly-drawn map divided Wyandotte County and moved a portion of it out of the 3rd District, which it shares with Johnson County.
It was the first time a court has declared that the Kansas Constitution prohibits political gerrymandering. The state attorney general’s office notified the Kansas Supreme Court almost immediately to expect an appeal of the decision.
Lawsuits over new congressional district lines have proliferated across the United States, with Republicans looking to recapture a U.S. House majority in this year’s midterm elections. State courts have issued decisions favoring Democrats in North Carolina, Ohio, and Pennsylvania, and a new GOP map in Florida is being challenged. A mid-level appeals court in New York recently declared its new districts were drawn unfairly to favor Democrats.
Wyandotte County District Judge Bill Klapper on Monday ordered legislators to draft another map “as expeditiously as possible,” and prohibited officials from conducting elections under the map that he struck down.
His order came a little more than five weeks before the state’s June 1 candidate filing deadline.
“The Buddha says the only consistent thing in the universe is change. One does not have to be a Buddhist to realize change is always taking place,” Klapper wrote in his 209-page opinion. “We must not be naive enough to believe change can be prevented by suppressing its voice.”
Klapper’s decision was met with criticism from Republicans.
“The ruling simply means we are on to the next step, which is an appeal by the Attorney General,” Senate President Ty Masterson, Vice President Rick Wilborn, and Majority Leader Larry Alley said in a statement.
Speaker Ron Ryckman, Speaker Pro Tem Blaine Finch, and Majority Leader Dan Hawkins issued a statement calling the judge’s decision “erroneous.”
Democrats have criticized the map as political gerrymandering.
State Rep. Barbara Ballard, a Lawrence Democrat, said that she had argued repeatedly that the map was gerrymandering that hurt minority voters.
“I’m glad they saw it for what it was,” Ballard said.
A May 25 deadline has been set for the Kansas Supreme Court to rule on a separate law redrawing Kansas House, Kansas Senate, and State Board of Education districts.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.